The War on Terror


General aspects

Also known as the Global War on Terrorism, the War on Terror refers to the military campaign against terrorist networks (especially Al-Qaeda) launched by the American government following the 9/11 attacks.

The term was first used by George W. Bush in his “War on Terror” speech to the Congress in September 2001 as a metaphor for all measures necessary to deal with terrorism in an unconventional war. The term was never used in any formal document. Initially, the military campaigns focused on countries known to harbor Al-Qaeda cells. As part of the War on Terror, the US had numerous objectives including capturing and punishing Al-Qaeda leaders, blocking all sponsorship and support given to terrorists, defending the US on home soil, and tackling the causes of terrorism. The military campaign included operations in many countries and regions, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, Pakistan, North Africa, Philippines, Yemen, and Libya.

Because the term was widely criticized both by US Congress and international voices, its usage decreased. For instance, the UK (which supported the US war effort) officially gave up the term in 2007. When Barack Obama became US President in 2008, he rarely used the term. But, in 2013, Obama declared that the Global War on Terror is over, arguing that the US would focus on specific groups of terrorists and not on fighting a tactic (i.e., the use of terror in general). The Obama Administration also took active steps to retire military troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. However, because of instability in the area, the Taliban reclaiming Afghanistan and the formation of ISIL, the Obama Administration continued to have troops present on the ground.

The Trump Administration continued the War on Terror using drones and expanding attacks to areas like Somalia with Trump reversing his position against the War on Terror. Trump has claimed that keeping American troops in Afghanistan is necessary, but at the end of 2018 there were reports that he planned to pull out a significant number of soldiers (perhaps reversing his position yet again). Furthermore, he approved various aerial strikes on the territory claimed by ISIL, which have affected the terrorist group.

    Textual perspective - George W. Bush's War on Terror Speech

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    Political measures and key events in the US

    Following the 9/11 attacks, the US ...

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